This past week I attended the Texas A&M University Book History Workshop, which was… intense. Imagine jamming every aspect of early book creation into one week. We’re talking type making, typesetting, woodcutting and engraving for illustrations, using the common printing press, making the ink balls for the press, making paper, and binding the book. All in one week. I’m lucky I made out with just one nick from the woodcutting.
The setup of the workshop was very well done. In the mornings we had a brief lecture for about an hour and a half. They were informative, and we got to bask in the glory of the very lovely old books. Then a break, followed by some workshop time during lunch. After lunch it was back to the workshop to work on various projects. By the end of the week, we had created a pamphlet, Thoughts on the Peace by Thomas Paine, all on our own. I felt accomplished. Everything was right with the world.
Then I had a thought.
So much work had gone into these books. Such a lengthy process to produce a book shows a dedication to the craft that I personally don’t see much today. With the homogenization of the printing process and the similarity in covers, it seems like the only books that lend themselves to creativity in presentation are for children. When did we decide that it’s not okay to have illustrations in novels? Why do book covers no longer come as embossed leather unless they’re classics? Why does the production of a book mean that it has to look like all of the others?
I know these thoughts can’t come without some consideration for budget, but I would like to put this out there to all of you publishing folk (some of whom I happen to know). Make me a book that matches the outside with the inside. Give me something grandiose and ornate and gorgeous. Offer me a book with gilded edges and a fine leather cover. Show me watercolor illustrations nestled in between the chapters of my novel.
I’m willing to pay extra.
As a side note, I’m beginning Warm Bodies as soon as I leave my place of work and travel to my place of residence. I watched the movie yesterday in grainy non-HD (yes, I’m a heathen), so I’m definitely shoving some comparison in this review. Give me a couple of days and I’ll deliver, I promise.
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